- The Washington Times - Friday, June 4, 2004

Up, up and there we go on one of the most exciting adventures I have ever experienced. Seeing the Grand Canyon by plane and helicopter is something not even the most jaded person would forget.

We left Sedona, Ariz., early Sunday morning. All weather systems go, we piled into cars equipped with take-away breakfasts packed by the Enchantment Resort’s kitchen.

After our 30-minute drive, we arrived at the tiny — and I mean tiny — Sedona airport, known for having one of the best eateries around. Any snow-crab addict in the area on a Thursday night should head for the Sedona Airport Restaurant for all-you-can-eat snow-crab legs.

At the airport, Tom Newman and his colleague were waiting for us. I looked at the four-passenger Cessna plane, and fear and excitement engulfed me simultaneously. Was my life insurance paid up? Did I really want to go on this six-hour foray? I did, but not before checking the pilots’ credentials, which were posted for all to see.

We climbed into the planes and were given earphones to baffle the noise of the high-octane-lawn-mower sounds of the plane.

Mr. Newman gave us updates on where we were and what we were seeing as we flew over the elevated desert of the Colorado Plateau and along the Grand Canyon rim. Our landing at the Canyon West Airport was smoother than most jetliners’ landings. We had a bit of trouble prying ourselves out of the plane, but we managed. This was not the time to think about looking graceful.

Enough excitement for the day, or so I thought.

We boarded helicopters, which swerved into a 3,200-foot descent into the Grand Canyon and landed just feet away from the Colorado River. This part of the trip was way too fast for me.

It reminded me of my childhood, when I would yell for more and wanted to repeat the ride even though the butterflies in my stomach weren’t so sure. What probably took five minutes felt like five seconds of roller-coaster thrills as the pilot gave us the ride of our lives by hugging the canyon’s sides.

We boarded a pontoon boat for a short ride on the river. All of us commented how nice it would be to return during summer for hot weather and warm water to go rafting. Whether or not we were athletes, by now we were talking a good game.

Then, after the all-too-short helicopter ride out of the canyon, a circa-1952 school bus waited to take us to Eagle Point.

We bounced along with our Hualapai Indian driver-guide, who was full of the folklore and history of the area and its Indian settlers.

After a barbecue lunch buffet on the rim of the canyon, we hiked to the precipice in what by then must have been nearly 100 degrees at the elevation, and it was only May. Our guide advised us not to go too close (“One never knows when rocks will give”), and then he pointed out a fissure in the canyon where people could jump across.

Maybe it was a product of too much sun, but there was no way I wasn’t going to make this leap — if only to be able to tell my grandchildren, in my dotage, about the experience.

Back in the planes, our group became increasingly quiet on our trip back to Sedona. If the truth be known, we were dozing, sleeping or contemplating what had been simply an amazing day.

For more information, visit Sedona Sky Treks’ Web site, www.skytreks.com.

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